The majestic Blue Ridge Mountains spanning much of the eastern third of the country are calling. Actually, for our family, that’s been happening for generations.
While Arlington is our home and will always be our home, we’ve traveled back and forth on visits to the land of both sides of my wife’s family roots for more than 50 years.
Along the way on those journeys, we had often imagined having a place of our own among the oldest mountain ranges on earth. With the recent acquisition of a log cabin surrounded by them, that long-held dream has come true.
It is located just an hour away from the entrance to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and access to the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina.
From the park entrance there you can make your way along the 32-mile Newfound Gap Road – a trip, if you don’t stop anywhere, of two to four hours depending on traffic – that ends in the very busy town of Gatlinburg, Tenn.
For a great many, however, the journey through the park can last all day or many days exploring all the wonders and wildlife among the 800 square miles of the pristine natural areas unlike those anywhere else in the country.
The park service tells of 384 miles of roadway inside the park offering a variety of experiences beyond the panoramic views, tumbling mountain streams and waterfalls, weathered historic buildings, and hardwood forests stretching to the horizon.
The park is, by far, the most visited of all the nation’s national parks. In 2019 there were 12.5 million that came to experience all its splendor – more than twice as many as made their way to the Grand Canyon, the second-most visited park. And, nearly three times more than traveled to the Rocky Mountain National Park.
The park service reports even more, some 15 million, that traveled somewhere along the 470 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway that traverses the highest elevations from Cherokee, N.C., to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and provides vistas across the expanse of the Blue Ridge Mountains and reveals how the Smokies got their name.
I realize I’m providing somewhat of a travel log in the midst of concerns, that we share, about how such a journey would risk exposure to the coronavirus.
We weighed that heavily against our experience of the past three years of looking at places we might acquire. When we found just what we wanted, we decided to fully examine how we could proceed exercising all the COVID-19 protocols and precautions to keep us and others as safe as possible. Our realtor with whom we had worked for years in North Carolina and the owners who built the cabin originally were very helpful and cooperative.
In the process of purchasing and experiencing our new cabin, we have already made new friends in the small community where our cabin is located and acquaintances throughout the small mountain villages where the pace of daily life is quite different from that of the huge metropolis back home.
We found that experience to be a restful retreat from stresses, real and imagined, that we and just about all others we know, deal with every day. Getting rejuvenated by being away also brings fresh perspective and a more positive approach to daily life upon our return home.
Thanksgiving and Christmastime in the cabin created instant memories that we were able to share with our extended family. It started snowing on Christmas Eve and provided a glorious White Christmas to greet us the next morning.
It really did look like a Currier & Ives scene on a Christmas card. For us, it was all real and all wonderful.
We plan on the cabin being a generational engagement for our children and grandchildren. Already, they are making it a home away from home and looking forward to all that the future holds in this very special place among God’s glorious creation.